The Lobster

Director: Yorgos Lanthimos. With: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C Reilley, Ben Whishaw, Lèa Seydoux, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed. Ireland, UK, Greece, France, Netherlands, 2015. IMDB: 7.1. My rating 4/4. Black weird absurdist tragicomedy set in dystopian future.

 Now have you thought of what animal you’d like to be if you end up alone?lobster
 Yes. A lobster.
 Why a lobster?
 Because lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives. I also like the sea very much.
(dialogue between Hotel manager and David)

– Can I come to your room sometime for a chat? I could give you a blowjob. Or you could just fuck me. I always swallow after fellatio and I’ve got absolutely no problem with anal sex if that’s your thing. My ex-husband always used to say I had the most beautiful thighs he’d ever seen, but let’s not talk about him.
(Biscuit Woman to David)

Yorgos Lanthimos likes to bring it to the extreme. In Dogtooth (2009) it was a family, now it 20170223_194523is the whole society. Or at least some imaginary city or country. We don’t know. He depicts a world in which single people have only 45 days to find a partner and are put in a special hotel facility. As this term expires, they will be turned into an animal they chooses. Welcome to the strange worl20170223_194143d of Lobster. There’s a lot to explore. It is the first movie Lanthimos made in English. With the budget of $4 million it grossed about $14 millions and received a whole bunch of awards. The scenario was co-written by Lanthimos’ long-time collaborator Efthymis Filippou.

Yes, it is really, really strange, weird and haunting world. Honestly, it actually took me almost a week to concentrate and collect my thoughts for a review since this movie had really impressed me and I couldn’t get i20170223_194858t out of my head for days. It’s not an easy film. For sure, Lobster is of the highlights of last years. It’s more accessible than Dogtooth and makes you reflect upon very different things. Actually, the more time passed after I watched it, the more I liked it. It’s as good sign.

As the story unveils, you don’t really understand whether it’s a comedy or…what? A black weird absurdist tragicomedy set in dystopian future, let’s put it like that. But there is much more than it seems. As every great movie, it’s not a one trick pony about the pressure of the society about being single (strangely, many critics wrote that the movie is about that). This is just the main20170223_194226 premise. It’s a satire. A deadly analysis of our society. Our behaviour, ambitions and egoism. How we need to be liked by the others and what we are ready to do for it. How we cherish our egoism. How we choose the partner (or do not choose it). While being extremely delicate but ruthless the movie asks, how much of your own character you should oppress when you love somebody? Should you? How? Why? And what will happen if you don’t? It doesn’t give any clear answers, but provides enough to make you reflect upon it.

Lobster is an extremely multi-layered movie. It’s rich with details and elements, being constructed of many levels. So everybody will find something unique inside, something different. It’s always a sign of a great movie. Many short scenes are absolutely 20170223_194026outstanding. Lanthimos takes some typical samples of our world, let it be having pets, small physical disabilities, electronic music, even having kids or something else, and turns it inside out, by penetrating inside it like a surgeon, showing it with honest cruelty and bare bones. It’s like a broken mirror… But be ready to see our real world in it.

As the 45-day testing period is coming to an end, everybody takes different decisions. You20170223_195024 can hunt more single people to gain extra days in the hotel facility. Some try to fake some special traits to attract other people. Somebody tries to escape from this rigid system. The movie is actually divided by plot into two parts – the 45-day hotel and the forest, where the group of singles is commanded by furious Lèa Seydoux character. The second section is less intense and little bit more clumsy, while most ideas were concentrated in the first part. But this is where the love story starts, and this may be one the weirdest love stories we have seen.20170223_194112

Outstanding cast, not only Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz (without doubt, one of their best roles), but all others as well – John C Reilly and Ben Whishaw as 2 other guys on 45 day trial, Ariane Labed as the hotel maid, Olivia Colman as the hotel manager and Lèa Seydoux as 20170223_194445the dictator of the single forest people. In one of the interview Yorgos Lanthimos mentions that from the very beginning he planned Farrell and Weisz for the main roles and didn’t hold any test casting for most actors. Instead, he watched and read their interviews, trying to see if they had the ”right sensibility for the movie”. He also wanted to worked with those actors who watched his previous movies and found them interesting. During the filming, the actors had almost absolute freedom. This approach worked perfectly and you can see great chemistry.

Colin Farrell did a particularly great performance, of course. With his pot belly, mustache and funny glasses he is both miserable and hilarious, I actually didn’t think he could be20170223_194321 that funny. In fact, he doesn’t do anything comical. Most scenes are funny in a weird or dolorous way, when we see his obedience and sadness. He causes something between pity and laughter through tears, acting very reservedly, somehow it reminded me of Bill Murray in his late comedies by Wes Anderson or Jim Jarmush.

The film has some resemblance with One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and you can draw the parallels between Olivia Colman’s character and Nurse Ratched, the hotel facility and the hospital. In both worlds, the emotions are oppressed. Most characters are obedient and it’s painful to watch, but… the surprising thing is that even though many scenes seem absurd because of the plot and the environment, they would actually seem normal in our ”normal” world.20170223_194505

Many gorgeous shots, great photography. It’s a beautifully shot movie and many scenes could be cut cut of the movie and enjoyed as short films. Some of them are particularly haunting, like the forest dancing scene, where each person dances to his own music, hunting slo-mo episodes or the scenes of punishment and violence. In the same forest, camels and goats and other animals sometimes pass by – they were people turned into animals. The masturbation is forbidden, thus when John C Railey character is caught, the hotel management forces him to put his fingers in the toaster. The maid of the hotel visits the rooms to perform some kind of weird massage to keep the men in shape. Visiting the supermarket, a guard approaches Farrell’s character, asking him for the right papers to prove that he is not single. And the whole movie is like that – it rich, layered, full of absurd and weird details.  Dialogues are weird as hell too. Most people seem completely empty, thus they say exactly and literally what they mean, without any context.

Worth watching? Great, great, great. Don’t miss it. It is weird and not everybody will like it. Let me be clear – it’s a thinking movie with lots of metaphors. So if you want some straightforward fun and entertainment, avoid it. But if you overcome that, you will see one of the most touching movies of last years, a horrific fragile story hidden in an absurd, oppressing and weird world. And not that different from our world, too. That’s what makes that so impressive.

4/4

17 thoughts on “The Lobster

  1. This was my favorite movie of 2016. I tend to enjoy movies where everyone has a moral sensibility that’s skewed from the real world in exactly the same way. You can learn a lot about a world from what its characters consider to be perfectly normal behavior. It’s the rare feature that can sustain that kind of weirdness – I tend to only see that sort of thing in short films.

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    • Yep. I’d definitely say one of the best films of last years. You make a good point. Just like in real world… That’s why those movies make such a bashing effect. Because often in real world people got used to much to seeing wrong things, their filters are weakened. Portraits like “Lobster” are a good slap in the face.

      I also tend to enjoy that kind of “society distorting mirror” movies. Did you watch “Zero City” (Gorod Zero)? It’s almost unknown, but absolutely worth a look. And as in Lobster, it’s not really a sci-fi, rather a weird dystopian setting. And how did you like the previous movie by Lanthimos?

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      • I have not seen Zero City (looks like it was released internationally as “Zerograd”), but it looks cool.

        Dogtooth was something special. It was deeply disturbing, but I also found it riveting, for much the same reason. I found myself thinking back to it when the movie “Room” came out. Brie Larson’s performance was quite good, and it’s a well-made film, but after Dogtooth, I just couldn’t help but think… “This seems a bit tame in comparison.”

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  2. Yeah, it was released as Zerograd (and that doesn’t bake any sense since the original name means literally Zero City). It still looks gorgeous and surreal.

    Dogtooth was disturbing indeed. I haven’t seen Room, I can’t approach Brie Larson anymore after seeing her terrible cliched performance in Kong.

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    • I think if you love original independent movies you will certainly love this. For me Lobster is a highlight of the last 10 years for sure. There are some other movies I gave 4/4 too but… this one feels special. It is extremely well-crafted and original. Lobster and Arrival share a lot, if you look at them in an unorthodox way.

      And what I appreciated most – being an intellectual movies it doesn’t seem overly brainy or artsy. I mean… it’s not just a gimmick or a shallow satire.

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  3. Great review. I think this film was so great too – I absolutely loved it myself, and am glad to find someone else who liked it as much. I particularly agree with you that the world in The Lobster is weird and oppressive, but it does not feel that different from our own, and that makes it thought-provoking. I gave the film 9/10, saying only that its ending could have been more thought-out. I seem to have this obsession with endings, but really I do not, hehe.

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    • Haha you have a good sense of self-irony.
      How do you imagine the ending?

      I cannot say that the whole second part wasn’t as excellent as the first one, it felt a little bit strained. But that’s fine.

      I’m glad someone else appreciated it as I saw that mostly artsy classy film critics liked it and normal people like us often found it boring.

      One of the things I appreciated (apart from all obvious merits) was that compared to such movies as ”A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence”, ”The Lobster” felt more alive and entertaining.

      I saw your review on ”The Lobster” but I am not sure whether you have seen Dogtooth. I also highly recommend it.

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      • I’ve seen Dogtooth and like it as well. I have a thing for such depressive, even morbid films. Of course, Dogtooth has its problems, but its on the budget, and there is no denying the vision of the director, that weird atmosphere he can create which seems so painfully like it can be happening next door.
        I hear there is another movie by Lanthimos with Emma Stone called “The Favourite”. Hopefully, it will be something good, though it sounds like a period drama.

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      • Hm. I never saw them as depressive… they just take out different layers from our reality, so it may seem painful. But both movies had life in them, the sparkle, and the willingness to live and express yourself. The weren’t about self-destruction neither. Mostly I saw this couple of things as a path to depressiom.

        Yes, I have heard of it… I haven’t seen “Alps” or “The Killing of the Sacred Deer…” (thriller/horror) neither, how about you?

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